John Anfield is an Aero Engineer who you would definitely want to buy a car off. The Rover 216 GTI is a long-standing AROnline favourite, and this one is immaculate – a testament to John’s impeccable maintenance routine.
Read on for the story of this once-nearly new Rover R8 has become a show-stopping classic car in John’s hands.
Words and photography: John Anfield
I left the Royal Air Force in 1992 after 23 years in various engineering roles and then moved to Rolls-Royce plc where I worked closely with the Derby-based Design Teams creating the new family of Trent Aero Engines. In this role, I spent quite a bit of time at Warwick University where the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) was bringing together a lot of the UK’s advanced companies, including Rover, to explore best practices in manufacturing design, process improvement and quality/reliability engineering.
Collaborating closely with Rover’s engineering staff and Honda’s UK assignees, we learned quite a lot and migrated much of the automotive thinking from WMG into our own operations. So, I was aware of the massive investments and improvements taking place down at Rover. My choice of the next car was therefore an easy one to make. It had to be a Rover 200.
Fast forward to October 1992, and I spotted Rover 216 GTi H696 WTV was on the forecourt of Trust Motors in Nottingham at Castle Marina. It took me about 30 seconds to decide to buy it there and then with no haggling. I sort of knew that it would be a future classic, but for the next six years, it was my daily driver and we clocked up 136k miles around Rolls-Royce’s sites. Derby-Bristol and back was a favourite daily run of mine in this car.
The history file
First registered in West Bridgford, in October 1990, the car has a high level of specification. I was the second owner and bought the car from Trust Motors at a site that now is Nottingham’s Castle Marina PC World store.
I bought my Rover 206 GTI for £8845. This included a 24-month warranty. It had covered 15,924 miles and was in a ‘nearly-new’ condition. I used the car regularly for six years and it had reached the impressive mileage of 136,800 miles, when I moved to work in Indianapolis in August of 1998.
A story of regular maintenance…
All scheduled servicing items were carried out by myself, in accordance with the time or mileage intervals set out in the Haynes Rover 214/216 1590 cc 1989-1992 Workshop Manual. The manual was an invaluable resource during restoration. A Rover 200 on-line manual was purchased too. However, the Rover online manual doesn’t cover the Honda DOHC engine.
My mileage from 1992-1998
- Year Start End Increase
- 1992 15,924 36,042 20,118
- 1993 36,042 57,285 21,243
- 1994 57,285 78,837 21,552
- 1995 78,837 97,363 18,526
- 1996 97,363 118,086 20,723
- 1997 118,086 136,800 18,714
The average was 20,150 miles per year. This was a mix of commuting and longer runs to Liverpool, Bristol. The mileage is high, but the car was well-maintained. Oil was changed at 12,000 miles or less. It was very reliable, without any breakdowns. A new windscreen was fitted in 1995, as a result of a crack in the screen.
Tyres were replaced when the legal limit was reached and the exhaust, brake pads etc. were changed whenever needed. The only major item to be replaced was a new front wheel as a result of the original rim being damaged by a bundle of chain in the road. The vehicle was washed and polished regularly – and any minor problems (such as blown bulbs) were immediately fixed.
In 1998, Rolls-Royce asked me to go to an aero-engine facility we had just acquired in Indianapolis so H696WTV had to go into hibernation, and she stayed there until about 2017. When I returned from the US in 2003, I had a company BMW as my daily driver so that is when I started with a rolling restoration that put my Rover back on the road in 2017 and on the Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club stand at the NEC Classic Car Show. Since then, many more areas of the car have been improved.
Getting it back to perfection
Rover H696 WTV was 25 years old in October 2015. The aim was to restore the car to a ‘near-new’condition, while keeping the vehicle as original as possible. And, if carefully stored and used, the car may last another 25 years without any major work. My plan was to limit the mileage, use it only during the summer months, and then to dry store the car in the garage at home for the winter.
Some jobs needed doing. The camshaft drive belt (cambelt) is a critical service item due for change at 60k miles. If it breaks then the valves and pistons will collide. So another new belt was fitted at 136k miles to ensure that this engine risk factor was eliminated.
As well as replacing the cam belt, it is always a good idea to replace the cambelt’s Tensioner pulley. Also the new water pump is driven by the cam belt via the toothed wheel shown near the centre. The camshaft seals keep oil back in the rocker box cover. There is one seal for each camshaft. These are seen here, after removal of the two cam drive wheels. Both seals are in excellent condition and with no evidence of any leaks.
At 136,000 miles, I changed the clutch. With some slippage and the same clutch from new, I was expecting quite a lot of wear and some damage to the clutch plate and flywheel. So, I was pleasantly surprised, after the gearbox and clutch plate were removed, to find that the clutch friction plate had not yet worn down to the rivets and that the flywheel mating surface was still in perfect condition.
A new three-piece clutch kit was bought and the friction plate and cover plates fitted perfectly. But the new release bearing was not the correct one for a 216 GTi. While not ideal, the old release bearing was in still in perfect condition and so this had to be reused. The clutch cable was inspected and found in perfect condition. The gearbox was cleaned internally and externally before refitting and then refilled with Duckhams Q transmission fluid to the correct level.
And the bodywork…
The very good condition of the bodywork and the interior was one of the key factors in my deciding to fully restore the mechanical condition of the car. While the car’s bodywork did not need any welding, or a respray, there were many small cosmetic items to finesse.
The largest bodywork task was to repair a missing piece of the rear spoiler: It had been clunked on my garage door, by opening the tailgate upwards. This item was filled, sanded and resprayed. The other large job was to clean and paint the five road wheels. These have a lattice pattern unique to Rover but they had 136,000 miles of dust, dirt and scratches on them. They cleaned up well, and the silver paint is acceptable, but at some point they will be powder-coated.
The original paint layer on the vehicle is in exceptional condition for its age of 25 years. After hand-polishing with Autoglym Synthetic Resin Polish (SRP), it has a highly reflective gloss finish. Wherever there were any signs of minor rust, these few areas were sanded back, Kurust and primer were applied before repainting with the correct colour paints. The wheelarch edges are very sound, but they were also fully treated.
The whole car has been hand polished with SRP, the wheels have been fully refurbished, and the bumpers and trims have been cleaned and treated with Autoglym bumper care and vinyl care products. All external trim is original and is in exceptional condition for its age.
And on to an amazing future…
I’m almost running out of things to do now! The car’s paint is still original, and I am about to do a full Meguiar’s compound and polish all over. After this, it may actually be finished!
It certainly attracts attention. In February 2022, a Film Director approached me to use the car – and, as a result, he has been using her in an English/Spanish movie drama. Maybe ‘the car is the star’ and that is her future role. Either way, I’m more than happy to oblige!